The film takes its title from an old hotel into which Clara (Gemma Arterton, Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters) moves with her “daughter,” Eleanor (Saoirse Ronan, The Host). The women are vampires; for 200 years they’ve been bound by blood and that’s a thirst they can’t quite quench, although Eleanor sure wishes she could.
To survive, Eleanor seeks out the elderly into whose feeble arms she can poke her sharp fingernail to let loose those sweet, sticky platelets. The more on-the-threshold of death’s door her willing donors are, the better to assuage her ever-growing guilt.
Clara, however, harbors no such patience or pickiness. Any man will do, so she operates as a prostitute to hook ’em quick and often. Because Arterton is so devastatingly, ferociously sexy, it’s damned believable.
Based on a play of all things, Byzantium is a literate slice of arthouse horror à la Xan Cassavetes’ recent Kiss of the Damned. The average horror fan weaned on torture porn and The CW-cast slashers will despise its time-jumping narrative, its poetic sequences and its … well, everything except the peekaboo nudity. Those with an appreciation for the Gothic, however, will sink their teeth into something quite good. —Rod Lott
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